Real talk right here. Love the tagline, “Be strong and shine.” My inner nerd loves this ad – the direction of it is both beautiful and meaningful.
I am not a person who does things just for the sake of doing them. In fact, I am pretty well known for never doing things I don’t want to do. I say no quite easily, and I try my best to be situations that benefit me and around people who build me up.
Over the years, I’ve never quite given up the old dream of playing a musical instrument. There were years when I didn’t have the means to take lessons. There were also years when I was boasting that one day I’d do it, but on this day, I’d just enjoy another four hour nap and Netflix marathon. At different times in our lives, we need different things. I know that there are days when I want to grab everything I can get ahold of, like a vortex is going to suck it all away if I don’t make it in time. Then there are days when I repel anything but down comforter.
I’m in a healthy balance of repellant and magnet at this point in my life, and now that grad school applications are complete and I have a good roster of online dating clients, I can maintain more focus on the part of me that’s for me. I can feel better about letting go of some things and taking on a few more.
For that reason, I’ve decided to take on piano consistently. Here’s a pic of my digital beauty:
I’ve got a teacher. He’s pretty awesome, and I have to show him that I’ve got Joy to the World down PAT next week, so every day I will sit down and practice, and I think it’s inside of that sitting down and dedicating myself to a single task that I will gain confidence that can only happen when learning something new. We age decades when we are mentally satisfied. It is the challenge of new material that makes us better. Even if it takes a while to get it down, during that while we are gaining a specialized skill and spending our time improving rather than maintaining. If we don’t improve, if we don’t try, who are we?
Every year I add more “things to learn” to my list. Maybe it’s because I have a deep fear of becoming old and irrelevant. There has to be a way to put off that part of life.
I am thankful that today, before I head to Florida for a decently-warm Thanksgiving break, I will sit down and be one step closer to mastering a new skill. And I know mastery takes years, possibly a lifetime. But I also know that unless the goal is to be great, anything short is barely average. Once I get good enough, I’ll post a video of my progress here.
What’s something new you’re learning? What’s something new you’re reading, watching, or into in general? Thank you for reading, for joining me in this journey, I hope you have a happy holiday, and please travel safely.
It’s incredible to think that girls these days are looking up to heroines like Katniss Everdeen and Beatrice Prior. Hunger Games and Divergent are both series that offer up strong, powerful women who, although not completely certain of their destinies, must prevail during dark, evil times and take the center stage of long overdue revolutions.
This is a huge task to undertake, one that is terribly frightening. I just saw Catching Fire over the weekend and had to cover my eyes on multiple occasions. I’m just not cut out for this type of high-octane idolization.
Perhaps that’s because my heroine is a different breed:
In 2011, Anne Shirley rightfully won her top spot as ultimate classical heroine. I was so proud of her, but really, I wasn’t surprised at all.
Women of my generation ought to have watched the series, but if they didn’t, let me sum Anne of Green Gables up in a handful of bullet-points proving that this is not only a great story for girls but a timeless classic for all to adore:
- Anne Shirley, a young girl delivered to an elderly brother and sister expecting a young male orphan to help them maintain their farm, beats the odds in every possible way.
- While she could be sad, bitter, and have a sense of hopelessness given her background, Anne is positive and always pushes herself in the direction of improvement and education.
- Without status or high class, Anne still manages to outsmart and outclass her peers, but this often comes at a cost of Matthew and Marilla’s nerves, as Anne is competitive and never one to pass on a dare.
- Anne isn’t the prettiest or most likable girl by virtue of her red hair and quick wit. Yet, with that same wit and a strong passion, she is still pursued by unlikely male suitors. (I won’t spoil any love stories for those who’ve not watched/read the series.)
- She gets into a lot of messy situations because of her zeal for friendship and imagination, but somehow she is fortunate enough to get through the hubbub surrounding her errors by being charming and deeply apologetic. Anne isn’t afraid to admit when she’s wrong — except when it concerns one Mr. Gilbert Blythe.
- Through sheer determination, Anne manages to befriend and gain mentorship from incredibly insightful, wonderful people who take her under their wings and help her develop further as a young woman. She is humble yet always has her eye on the prize, and those around her are attracted to the fire inside of her, especially old women who are happy to see someone stirring up the stuffiness of Avonlea.
- Anne never sees her gender, social status, or lack of biological family as a hindrance. She seeks justice for all in matters of learning and working, and while it causes trouble for her at times, she doesn’t give up in the face of cruelty or discrimination.
- Anne’s dreams do take some blows along the way, and she does have to make tough decisions about continuing school versus caring for her aging and ill adoptive parents, Matthew and Marilla, but she always remains true to her heart and keeps her hopes high, right to the very end.
Anne is just a great role model all round. I am so happy to have been exposed to her. As a young girl, I wanted to fit in, but I also wanted to be extraordinary. Anne was a symbol of how extraordinary is the road less traveled, but what a great adventure it is to take that turn. She did make bosom buddies along the dusty, rebellious road, and she did enjoy great victories after the turmoil of her many meetings with trouble. She felt deep heartache and disappointment, and she did learn harsh lessons by taking stupid dares and by running her mouth when she could have taken the higher ground. I adore her bravery and passion, and I think children could learn a lot from the simple, yet courageous life of an orphan girl living in a small town, trying to get a quality education, and working to make a name for her family. Her devotion is lasting, and her loyalties are strong. Who she is encompasses a lot of those virtues we want for ourselves and our children. Sure, she doesn’t save civilizations or protect the unprotected. She doesn’t have a bow and arrow, but she’s a classic, wonderful story of a woman who beats the odds, lives in books and without regret.
Watching her grow up was one of the most educational experiences of my young life, during a time when I needed a special kind of story to show me that there’s a way to get through anything, and that’s with the right attitude. I hope that someday my children will enjoy her the way I did, that they are brave, take dares, and come out on top with their heads held high. Thank you, Anne Shirley, for everything you are.
When I was a kid, I remember sitting at the edge of the kitchen watching my Mom cook. It’s important to note that it was the edge where I lurked because even an inch closer to the work zone, and it was likely I’d be booted. See, I never had the most patient parents. I know a lot of kids can relate to this, so when I say that I learned at an early age the radius of my parents’ force fields, it shouldn’t sound like a hardship.
I grew up during what might be the last days of an era where the space between children and adults was still visible. The point of my childhood was to watch adulthood from a distance and learn. Not to have my hand held at each step. Or to be heavily instructed in my daily duties and goings-on. I remember being alone a lot as a kid. Even when my naps were reduced to zero, I still had an allotted time each day that I was expected to spend in my room. It was during those hours that I nailed down NKOTB dance routines, built circuses out of sheets, and sometimes accidentally napped after an especially tiring day.
I don’t remember being physically close to my parents much — but I remember the closeness that mattered most. Snuggling on the couch to watch a movie on a lazy Sunday. Holding hands walking near cliffs in Monterey Bay. And sometimes, if I was patient — and quiet (oh man how important me shutting up was) — enough, I got to be a sous chef to my Mom.
My Mom is an amazing cook. She apprenticed under my Grandma Jolly, a woman whose magical concoctions and casseroles still paint the walls of my dreams. I learned with time that rather than asking for something specific, I might be better off simply asking questions about cooking, about what needed to happen next, the science of it all. After a long day of work and having to wear nylons during the entirety of it, my Mom would sometimes come home and just want to sit. I think that’s natural, and I am that way, too. However, there were mouths to be fed, so she often pulled her hair back and got to work in the kitchen. She mostly made meals from scratch, and if she didn’t, she came darn close. We always had a protein, a starch, and a vegetable, and nothing was ever overcooked. Except maybe pork chops, but I never particularly loved them because as a kid meat bones freaked me out. And in the early 90s it was much more customary for every household to have a wok, and with that, I was always excited for those wok nights when my Mom would chop up four or five vegetables, steam some Uncle Ben’s, and the theatrics of tossing and swirling and the sizzling of the stir fry. I loved stir fry (hint: these are the beginnings of a person who eats stir fry at least once a week).
One day I sat at the very edge of the bar that attached to our tiny, perfectly square kitchen, and I behaved just well enough that Mom caved in and gave me a job. Despite the excitement, I composed myself and accepted without too much fanfare. I was to chop all of the spare vegetable pieces into littler pieces with a sharp – but not the sharpest – knife and return them to the chef. I’d watched her do it dozens of times, so I was confident – but nervous. I didn’t want to look like a total amateur after all the insistence and general bother that surrounded becoming a helper. If I was to help, I was to create a product that didn’t need revision. So I got to it, and I tried, tongue sticking straight out of my mouth like Michael Jordan, to imitate the strokes of her arm as she came down and over each vegetable with the knife. I had an important grown-up job to do. I carefully made each piece equal in width with each slice. I think that’s the day I began my love with cooking.
For many people the fear of cooking comes from the fear of failure. Food is an investment, and if one fails with it, not only is there a sunk cost, but there’s also an empty belly. But there’s also the hassle that’s involved in cooking. Like the time it takes. I know people who don’t delight in the thought of cooking, and I understand that for many, it’s not the most economic choice. I also know people who take a kind of pride in avoiding cooking at all costs, as if the declaration to be free from the shackles of kitchen duty is a way of living above others who are enslaved by the task. (To be honest, those people annoy me, but I’m that way about mostly not caring about sports, so I let it go.)
I do think, though, that I am blessed to have met the responsibility of cooking at the age I did. I learned a lot by being mostly hands-off, just a viewer in the audience taking mental notes. My Mom came home and whipped it up, and I learned that most meals in life aren’t held at the standard of Bon Appetit magazine’s glossy centerfolds. A lot of folks view meals as complete package deals. Meaning, you have to buy 14 ingredients, execute them precisely, and do it in much more time than the cook and prep designations in the magazine suggests. I hold out much more hope for the simple instruction of TV stars like Rachael Ray. Sure, Anthony Bourdain shits on her whenever he gets the chance, but for most people, 3/4 of a recipe comes from a can, box, or the freezer, and I think she’s a great starter for anyone interested in learning, at the very least, how to streamline ingredients and actually make a meal that takes half an hour or less. Because cooking isn’t supposed to be an art for everyone. It’s just a way to be independent and choose what we are eating. It shouldn’t take a long time.
Another bit of credit goes to Epicurious.com, a place that has always made it too easy to make food happen. At one point I was completely enthralled by the possibility of making ingredients mold and work together that I would just put three or four ingredients into the search function and lose my marbles when I’d find exact matches. “Apple pork tenderloin onion” was one. Another was “Chicken sausage red pepper salad” — it’s great what exists out there already when one is trying to feel inventive. But it’s also a relief that a first-time thought has been tested and proven to be delicious. Sites like Epicurious help newcomers gain a sense of control. I still visit the site, put in a few ingredients I’m unsure of, and voila! A recipe.
With that information, sometime in my early twenties, I decided to just buy a bunch of ingredients I liked to mix and match for the week, and I was fortunate to have a food mentor named Tom at work to tell me what to do with those ingredients and at what temperature. After many attempts to buy $56.00 worth of groceries for just one experimental meal, I decided to smart up and reach out for help. He taught me the importance of marinades and the cuts of meat to buy. He gave me tips on vegetables and stocks and how to handle a large batch of anything, like cabbage or a bag of cilantro. I have to admit that somewhere in everyone’s life there should be a person like this. Or a person like my dear Crid, who is my phone a friend anytime I’m not sure how long to cook something. Or if cooking something a certain way is incorrect. Or if adding this one thing to three other things will make it better — or worse. The personal guidance has been the molding factor over time that has increased, rather than decreased, my interest in committing to cooking. I am truly grateful to these lovely people.
I am so thankful that I am able to look in my fridge and see three ingredients that might make a great meal or snack — and just go with it. Yesterday I combined some spare brussels sprouts, butter lettuces, leftover cornbread crumbs, and cranberries to make a quick salad of shaved brussels sprouts with cornbread instead of croutons, and cranberries. Over time, it’s great to have a grasp on what goes with what and how to make things that don’t seem like they would work cooperate with one another.
My basic policy for any week is lettuce for salads, deli meat and bread for sandwiches, eggs and cheese for breakfasts, and some kind of lean protein with a vegetable for dinner. Somehow this has become an easy task for me, and I am so lucky that along the way a handful of special people who love food have helped me grow into a person who loves to cook. Now I won’t say I’m an amazing cook or anything, but I feel quite lucky to step into the kitchen and find enjoyment in what I’m doing and that am comfortable in an important environment for well-being. I don’t feel a strong urge to often make an over the top meal (I leave that to Jan) because I value time quite a bit, and like my Mom, I am much happier sticking to the “quick and delicious” wheelhouse. I understand that for many this is a huge hurdle, and in a life where there’s a constant struggle to feel in control, this is one of those things that gives me peace. Even if I’m relatively impatient and always will be.
It’s getting cold out there, and I’m in the mood to accessorize and protect. What are you into? For me, soft is key.
1. Zara Wraparound Scarf – $69.90
2. Gap Pure Body Leggings – $29.95 (I have these in grey and will definitely be getting them in black for my winter uniform)
3. Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve – $15.00
4. Philips Wake-Up Light with Colored Sunrise Simulations – $150.89
5. Kate Spade Lip Balm Holder Necklace – $35.00
6. Vosges Couture Cocoa Sampler – $19.50
7. Tretorn Skerry Spritz Metallic V Rubber Boot to match the gold iPhone 5S – $75.00
8. The Bavarian Zipfel Bobsled – $39.95
9. Serpentine: Bellydance with Rachel Brice – $19.18
10. Rock Me Archimedes Two Player Strategy Game since JZ and I will be sitting in the living room chillin’ a lot – $34.99